BOISE, Idaho — The Boise State football team kicks off the 2019 season with a long road trip to Florida where they will face off against the Florida State Seminoles.
The game was originally scheduled for a "neutral site" - TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville - but was moved to Tallahassee and kickoff bumped up to Saturday morning due to Hurricane Dorian forecasts. The change of venue gives the Seminoles a true home game for the season-opener.
It will be the first-ever matchup between the two programs, which both enter the season with something to prove.
The Broncos are replacing several star players on offense, including four-year starting quarterback Brett Rypien and running back Alexander Mattison, who left after his junior year to enter the NFL Draft.
Despite breaking in new players at key positions, the Broncos were picked by the Mountain West media to win the Mountain Division and make their third-consecutive trip to the conference title game. The team has been predicted to win the Mountain Division the last six seasons.
Meanwhile, the Seminoles are coming off their first losing season in four decades. They went 5-7 in head coach Willie Taggart's first season at the helm, and failed to go to a bowl game for the first time in 36 years.
Florida State is less than six years removed from a victory in the BCS National Championship game. Between 2012 and 2016 - the Jimbo Fisher era - the Seminoles won at least 10 games per season, won the ACC conference championship game twice, and appeared in several big-money bowl games, including the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl and Peach Bowl.
After a disappointing campaign in 2018, Florida State is looking to right the ship.
“It was very difficult to go through last year,” defensive tackle Marvin Wilson told the Palm Beach Post. “But last year was last year. We moved on from it. Nobody is feeling sorry for themselves. You got to be a man about it, flip the page and keep going.”
Added Taggart: “We put that behind us a long time ago. The only time we talk about it is when we are asked about it.”
Because of the big question marks for both teams entering the season, neither is ranked in the major preseason polls.
- Boise State vs. Florida State
- Saturday, August 31
- Kickoff: 10 a.m. MT
- Doak Campell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
The game will be televised on ESPNews, which can be found on the following channels:
- Sparklight (formerly Cable One): Channel 135 / 1135 (HD)
- DirecTV: Channel 207
- Dish Network: Channel 142
- Cox: Channel 32
ON THE RADIO
Fans can listen to the game on the Bronco Radio Network, which can be found online or on the following stations in the Boise area:
- KBOI 670 AM in Boise
- KTIK 93.1 FM in Boise
- KDZY 98.3 FM in McCall
- KSNQ 98.3 FM in Twin Falls
Here is a list of Bronco Radio Network stations outside the Boise area.
The game will stream live on the WatchESPN app, available in Apple and Android app stores. The service is only available to subscribers of participating cable and satellite television providers (including Cable One, Dish Network and DirecTV).
BRONCO ROUNDUP GAME DAY
KTVB's Bronco Roundup Game Day show will be live from Doak Campbell Stadium from 8 to 9 a.m. on KTVB Channel 7 (Digital Channel 7.1), KTVB.COM and the Bronco Roundup App. Join Jay Tust and Brian Holmes for a live look at all of the major storylines leading up to kickoff.
The matchup in Tallahassee will be the first-ever meeting between Boise State and Florida State.
It's the first game of a "home-and-home" series, announced back in 2013. The Seminoles are set to play at Albertsons Stadium in Boise on Sept. 19, 2020.
The Broncos are 2-3 all-time against current teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference. Their most recent game against an ACC team was a 42-23 defeat by Virginia at Albertsons Stadium back in 2017.
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The Broncos return 14 starters, including six on offense and seven on defense, from a 2018 squad that finished with a 7-1 conference record.
Notably, the team has to replace several productive players from the 2018 squad, including star quarterback Brett Rypien, running back Alexander Mattison, wide receivers Sean Modster and AJ Richardson, cornerback Tyler Horton, and linebackers Tyson Maeva and Jabril Frazier, just to name a few.
A four-year starter, Rypien etched his name all over Mountain West record book in his time at Boise State. He became the conference's all-time career leader in passing yards (13,581), completions (1,036) and 300-yard games (21). He also finished second in wins (37) and career touchdown passes (90).
In 2018 Rypien threw for 3,705 yards, and logged 30 touchdown passes against seven interceptions. The only other quarterback to score a passing touchdown was backup Chase Cord, before he went down with an ACL tear during practice in October. Cord returned to practice during spring drills and has been a favorite to win the starting job ever since.
A week before the season-opener, Harsin announced the Hank Bachmeier would be the Broncos' starting quarterback. Bachmeier will be the first-ever true freshman to start a season opener for Boise State.
Bachmeier, a four-star recruit out of Murrieta, California who had multiple Pac-12, SEC and Big Ten offers, committed to the Broncos back in May 2018. He joined the team in January and showed a lot of potential during fall camp.
The other offensive playmakers no longer on the team - Mattison, Modster and Richardson - combined to account for 60% of the team's scoring - rushing and receiving - in 2018. Mattison had 17 of the team's 24 rushing touchdowns, while Richardson and Modster each had eight receiving touchdowns; the team total was 31.
Mattison, who led the team with 1,415 rushing yards, opted to forgo his senior season, and was selected by the Minnesota Viking in Round 3 of the NFL Draft.
Junior Robert Mahone (32 carries, 128 yards in 2018) was listed as the starting running back in the Broncos' first official depth chart of the season, followed by sophomore Andrew Van Buren (34 carries, 163 yards), and true freshman George Holani.
That trio of backs got the bulk of reps during fall camp, and it is likely that one of them will emerge as the regular starter once the season begins. The coaching staff may also opt for a committee approach, at least in the first few games, to see who stands out in real game situations.
As for the wide receivers, the loss of Modster and Richardson - who each had almost 1,500 receiving yards in 2018 - leaves a lot of production to be replaced. Fortunately, the Broncos are deep at this position with plenty of talented players ready to step up. The list includes junior CT Thomas (41 catches, 535 yards in 2018), senior Akilian Butler (25 catches, 204 yards), senior John Hightower (31 catches, 504 yards), junior Octavius Evans (he spent most of last season nursing an injury; more on him below), and sophomore Khalil Shakir (16 catches, 170 yards). And those are just the players who have see actual game time. The Broncos also have some promising redshirt freshmen in Billy Bowens and Stefan Cobbs, as well as two true freshman wide receivers, who would love to prove themselves come game time.
The Broncos defense has decidedly fewer holes to fill than the offense. Returning is arguably the team's best player - STUD Curtis Weaver - who was named the preseason Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year this summer.
Weaver enters his junior season with 20.5 career sacks, which is good enough for sixth all-time at Boise State and is more than DeMarcus Lawrence and Kamalei Correa had for the respective careers as Broncos. The two-time All-Mountain West first teamer also posted 15 tackles for loss, providing strong run support beyond his high-level pass-rushing ability. The 6-foot-3, 265 pounder says the biggest key now is evolving into a leader for the defense and the team as a whole.
"[The coaches] talked to me about leadership and I felt like that was probably one of the things for to pick up and gain, so being a leader out on the field, being a voice, I feel like it gets the team more amped up, brings the energy day in and day out," Weaver said during fall camp.
With the departure of Tyson Maeva, the team's second-leading tackler in 2018, and Jabril Frazier, the fourth-leading tackler, the Broncos will need someone to step up and replace that production at linebacker. The top candidate will be Riley Whimpey, who, despite missing the last five games of season due to an ACL tear, had the third-most tackles on the team. Whimpey is back to full strength (more on him below). Sophomore Ezekiel Noa is also expected to be a big contributor this season. He played in 10 games in 2018 and started three of them, finishing with 34 tackles and a forced fumble.
One of Boise State's most experience units entering this fall is the defensive line. That group has talent and depth with players like David Moa, Sonatane Lui, Chase Hatada, and Scale Igiehon all returning.
The Broncos also return their leading tackler from the last two years - safety Kekoa Nawahine (71 total tackles in 2018).
In the secondary, coaches will need to replace Tyler Horton, a fixture at cornerback for the last 3-plus years. Jalen Walker is expected to take up the reigns now that Horton has graduated. The junior has been a backup most of his career so far, but he did log stop-starts against Oregon in 2017 and Oklahoma State last fall. He told KTVB during fall camp that he learned a lot from Horton and is ready to take on a bigger role this season.
Fortunately for Walker, he'll have support from returning starter Avery Williams, the 5-foot-9, 193-pound cornerback, who has proven himself invaluable ever since he joined the team as a walk-on two years ago. Williams was fifth on the last season with 49 tackles, and is a weapon on special teams. As a punt returner, he has scored on several occasions.
BACK FROM INJURY
While the Broncos have to replace some key players in 2019, they are getting plenty of talent back who missed some or all of last season due to injury.
On the offensive side of the ball, junior wide receiver Octavius Evans is expected to make an immediate impact as a go-to receiver for the new quarterback. Evans was poised for a breakout sophomore campaign last fall when he suffered a high ankle injury in fall camp. The injury lingered all season - he played in just five games and was limited to just two catches for 12 yards. Evans said during fall camp that he's already put that disappointing season behind him.
"I'm over that, I'm ready to move past that, 'cause that ain't who I am no more," he said. "Not injured no more, I'm feeling good, I'm excited, just to be back out there to see how it feels. I feel way better."
Quarterback Chase Cord is also back to full speed after he suffered a torn ACL in practice last October. Cord's roommate - linebacker Riley Whimpey - also tore his ACL just weeks later. Whimpey was the Broncos' leading tackler (55) before getting hurt during the BYU game on Nov. 3. Almost 10 months later, Whimpey says he's feeling good at practice and is ready to make a difference on the field.
Also returning on defense this year is defensive tackle David Moa. The senior suffered a torn Achilles during a workout in the summer of 2018. He tried to play through it before re-injuring it during the game at Oklahoma State. Moa missed the remainder of the season, but fortunately, was granted a sixth season of eligibility.
In the secondary, safety DeAndre Pierce returns after recovering from a lacerated spleen suffered on Sept. 29 against Wyoming. He missed the remainder of the season, and couldn't lift or do any football-related drills until mid-January.
RIGHTING THE SHIP
For a blueblood college football program like Florida State, last season's 5-7 record was an epic disappointment.
Coach Willie Taggart's first season with the Seminoles was a big departure for a team that averaged more than 11 wins between 2010 and 2016. In 2018, the squad from Tallahassee was abysmal on offense, finishing 126th out of 129 teams, 112th in scoring, and 102nd overall.
The Palm Beach Post notes that Taggart brought in offensive coordinator Kendal Briles to right the ship:
"Briles’ biggest challenge will be to continue to develop quarterback James Blackman, the former Glades Central standout who emerged as a true freshman under [Coach Jimbo] Fisher in 2017 and played in just four games last season. He also has to find a way to get talented running back Cam Akers back to the level he was playing before Taggart arrived. Akers rushed for 1,024 yards as a freshman in 2018 and 706 yards last year."
According to the Post, Taggart has said that Blackman entered camp as the starter, but hasn't ruled out Wisconsin transfer Alex Hornibrook.
Briles will also be tasked with cleaning up FSU's offensive line, which in 2018, allowed 103 tackles for a loss.
Taggart said recently that his team has embraced the new culture and understands what they need to do to return to their winning ways.
“Well, I think to restore that swagger, that comes with winning, and our guys understand we’ve got to win to get anything we want. We’ve got to go and win,” Taggart told the Orlando Sentinel. “But I think with our football team, now our guys understand what it takes to win. You don’t just show up on Saturdays and think you’re going to win ball games. Those little things that we’re asking them to do, they’re doing them now, and they’re holding their teammates accountable to doing those things. They’re setting a standard to what we want it to be and making sure everybody within the program is doing it that way.
"Our players are doing that now, but they like where our football team is, I like where our staff is and we’ve got two more weeks and we’ll continue to get better," Taggart added. "But I’m going to be excited to see our guys go out and compete and show you all what the new 2019 FSU football team is.”
BRONCOS ON WATCH LISTS
A dozen Broncos, including head coach Bryan Harsin, will enter the 2019 season on preseason watch lists for prestigious awards.
Harsin is up for the Dodd Trophy, which honors the FBS football coach of a team with a successful season on the field and off. The award stresses the importance of academic excellence and the desire to give back to the community.
Of the players, no one got as many preseason accolades as junior STUD Curtis Weaver, who was recognized on watch lists for the Bednarik Award (best defensive player), Bronko Nagurski Trophy (most outstanding defensive player), the Lott IMPACT Trophy (best defensive player in character and performance), and the Ted Hendricks Award (top defensive end).
Four Broncos were also named to the 2019 Polynesian Football Player of the Year award: Senior defensive tackle David Moa, senior nose tackle Sonatane Lui, senior safety Kekoa Nawahine, and junior nickel Kakaula Kaniho.
Here's a look at all of the Broncos on 2019 award watch lists:
Head Coach Bryan Harsin
OL Kole Bailey
TE John Bates
OL Ezra Cleveland
N Kekaula Kaniho
C Garrett Larson
NT Sonatane Lui
DT David Moa
OL John Molchon
S Kekoa Nawahine
STUD Curtis Weaver
CB/KR/PR Avery Williams
Boise State and Florida State will both be unranked when they meet in Tallahassee.
The Broncos are technically sitting at 27th in the USA Today Coaches' Poll, and 33rd in the AP Top 25 preseason poll, based on the number of votes received. Boise State is the second-highest ranked Group of Five school, behind Central Florida (No. 17 in both polls). The top-ranked Group of 5 conference champion at the end of the season gets an automatic bid to a New Year's Six bowl game.
The Broncos have been ranked in the Top 25 at least once per season since 2002, and have finished the season ranked a dozen times. That includes last year when they ended with a No. 23 ranking by the AP and No. 24 ranking by the coaches.
Florida State, which is coming off its first losing season in four decades, also has some work to do if they hope to land in the top 25. The Seminoles did not receive any vote in the AP poll. They received four votes in the coaches' poll, compared to Boise State's 118 votes.
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A LOOK AHEAD
After opening the season with an away game, the Broncos will return to the friendly confines of Albertsons Stadium where they will take on Marshall for their home-opener on the Blue. They'll stay in Boise for the entire month of September, giving fans plenty of opportunities to watch the team in action.
Here's a look Boise State's schedule for the upcoming season:
Saturday, Aug. 31, 5 p.m.
- Boise State at Florida State (Jacksonville)
Friday, Sept. 6, 7 p.m.
- Marshall at Boise State
Saturday, Sept. 14, 8:15 p.m.
- Portland State at Boise State
Friday, Sept. 20, 7 p.m.
- Air Force at Boise State
Saturday, Oct. 5, 8:30 p.m.
- Boise State at UNLV
Saturday, Oct. 12, TBA
- Hawaii at Boise State
Saturday, Oct. 19, TBA
- Boise State at BYU
Saturday, Nov. 2, 8:30 p.m.
- Boise State at San Jose State
Saturday, Nov. 9, TBA
- Wyoming at Boise State
Saturday, Nov. 16, TBA
- New Mexico at Boise State
Saturday, Nov. 23, 8:30 p.m.
- Boise State at Utah State
Friday, Nov. 29, 1:30 p.m.
- Boise State at Colorado State